A History of MnGCA

A semi-brief history of the founding and the first two years of the MnGCA submitted by Centris.

The MnGCA started with a loosely formed group called GEM, Geocachers Exploring Minnesota. We had an online bulletin board and chatted with each other there, but not much else. 

If you’ve ever seen the front of the 2006 Experience Minnesota geocoin, that is similar to what we were using as the GEM logo (an example is TB15M6Y).

The first MN event, the Cache Bash (GC696A) was suggested in the GEM forums and hosted by Centris. There was also a co-event hosted by King Boreas that day called Pic-A-Nick Pals (GC7514, which was his 81st cache). 

Sidenote - King Boreas was pretty much a legend to us back then. Since it was still a newish hobby in early 2002 there were not that many caches to be found. He was really the only cacher actively placing hides throughout the entire metro and not just in his own community.

While we were at that first event, some of us decided we needed something more official to aid us in communicating with the parks systems at all levels. They were beginning to question non-stealthy cachers and notice geocaches being hunted. They were concerned that we might be destroying things or placing hazardous items.

A few of us met at the St Paul library to begin an official organization. We probably argued more that night about using MnGCA vs MNGCA than any other topic that was brought up. Attending that evening were Towlebooth and Jillibean, King Boreas, berg0449,15Tango and Perrine, lady and laddy bugs, Bobhiker, kleiner, Centris, and CB-GPSERS (if I forgot someone, I apologize).

Between that meeting and the next, we met for the first Halloween Hoopla (GC7514), which was also suggested on GEM and hosted by Centris. (both Cache Bash #1 and Hoopla #1 were adopted over in 2004 to become part of MnGCA’s legacy even though they both pre-date the organization) 

We gained a few more cachers to our founder’s group at the Hoopla.

We met several times over that fall putting together our mission statement and making plans. In early winter 2002, the GEM forum was taken down and we started the MnGCA. We formed several committees that night. First and foremost was to design a new, more professional-looking forum and web presence, which was headed by Towlebooth and Jillibean. Our new logo, which is still in use, was designed by Kleiner’s son. Our shirts and gear were headed up by lady and laddy bugs. 

Someone was assigned to write up a Geocaching 101 series of classes to introduce newbie cachers to our hobby. The other founding members were assigned a county park system to liaison with and to open up lines of communication with. Everyone who came to the meetings was assigned a job. We had great enthusiasm and we hit the ground running.

MnGCA’s first outreach efforts were met with all sorts of reactions from the city and county park systems and MN DNR. We had a whole presentation that the committee put together that would attempt to teach the park authorities about geocaching, who we were and how our presence would benefit their parks. Some systems were a flat-out firm “no '' and some counties just didn’t care as long as we didn’t bushwhack or create new trails. 

The one county that understood what we were all about, wanted us in their parks, and were willing to work with us was Ramsey County. Some of their park administration agreed to help us approach some of the other counties and it really made a difference. The MnGCA owes a lot to the efforts of Ramsey County Parks for aligning with us so early on.

The “CITO in MN” (GC8D14) was born out of our desire to show the counties and the DNR that we were all about “leave no trace”, CITO and generally being good stewards of the parks. It was the first cache of its kind and lasted for 14 years before geo-headquarters shut it down.

Minnesota cachers did a lot of very visible CITO over that time and everyone who logged that ought to be very proud of showing the park systems exactly what we stood for. Some of those cachers were featured on several different daytime news shows and newspaper articles in the Twin Cities. Geocaching was gaining popularity so this publicity always resulted in a bunch of new, enthusiastic cachers.

In the beginning, most of our member meetings and casual events were just announced on the forums and not made into official, log-able event pages, unfortunately, those records no longer exist, but we met fairly often, usually to update members about the park progress.

We were few in numbers, but we sure had some fun! 

The “Breakfast Buddies” event was started because some cachers on the GEM forum thought it would be fun to do some group caching in various towns and get together outside of regular park centered events. Breakfast Buddies was named after a cute little Burger King sausage sandwich that was a popular breakfast treat that year. It was never intended to become the ongoing name of the event, but somehow it stuck and we never thought of a better name. The first few Breakfast Buddies events were not posted as log-able events because it was only intended to be a small group of friends having breakfast and then heading out for a day of caching together. Somehow it morphed into much more than that over the years. There was a geocoin made to commemorate the 30th Breakfast Buddies event.

“Beanie Bazaar” was an event side-cache game that was started to encourage people to bring their kids to our events and let people know we were a family-friendly group and get the geo-kids to feel more included in our events. We’d buy large lots of cheap Beanie Babies on eBay and create easy little cache hunts just for the kids to win a Beanie of their choice.

By the end of year two, more people were taking the initiative to host events and to educate newbies so a lot of the pressure of planning so many get togethers and meetings was taken off the MnGCA shoulders. 

Ongoing events like the Winter Bash and the Get Sauced events were born during this time. By late 2004, MnGCA was a thriving and important part of geocaching life in MN and was ready for new leadership.

Thankfully the little grassroots dream started by a small handful of early cachers has grown beyond any expectations we had in 2002. Lots of things have changed, but the MnGCA has always been in good hands over these many years. It will continue on to be a positive organization for the betterment of the hobby of geocaching.

Other notable MN geocaching history firsts...

The first MnGeo podcast/vlog was hosted by Sir_Zman 2006-2013 (http://www.tcgcpc.com/)

The first Minnesota geocoin was Experience Minnesota 2006, followed closely by KB1000 hide

The first Minnesota based cache reviewer was Surfer Joe, replacing GA based mtn-man

If you have any additional information to add about the early history of the GEM or MnGCA, please emails us at boardmngca@gmail.com